Back in 1983 college radio station KFJC (where I currently DJ) embarked on an ambitious project to do a radio marathon featuring hundreds of different versions of the song “Louie Louie.”
Soliciting help from both musicians and listeners (one of my close friends fondly recalls heading up to KFJC to drop off the cassette tape that her family recorded for the event), KFJC was able to broadcast 823 different versions of “Louie Louie” in their “Maximum Louie Louie” marathon that lasted for more than 63 hours beginning on August 19, 1983.
As an homage to this storied event from KFJC’s past, several of the original “Maximum Louie Louie” instigators are coming back to the station this coming Monday, April 11th in celebration of International Louie Louie Day. They will be playing various versions of Louie Louie and will no doubt be reminiscing about the 1983 marathon. Former KFJC volunteer Eric Predoehl was on hand filming the original Maximum Louie Louie back in 1983 and has continued in his quest to document all things Louie Louie ever since. His tireless efforts can be found on his website The Louie Report. In addition to that, he is in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign in order to focus more attention on a documentary film that he is working on called “The Meaning of Louie.”
As soon as I heard about Monday’s Louie Louie special I got in touch with Eric in order to learn more about both the 1983 marathon and this week’s “The Return of the Invasion of MAXIMUM LOUIE LOUIE” (airing on KFJC 89.7FM in Los Altos Hills this Monday, April 11th from 7 to 11pm). Eric shared with me the amazing story behind the original marathon as well as his ongoing efforts to document the story of Louie Louie and its author Richard Berry.
Jennifer Waits: What was Maximum Louie Louie and how did it come about?
Eric Predoehl: “Maximum LOUIE LOUIE” was an outrageous radio marathon assembled at KFJC in August 1983 as a response to the 24 hour LOUIE LOUIE marathon that took place six months prior across the bay at KALX (Berkeley). There was a bit of a friendly rivalry going on with KFJC being the first radio station to broadcast an hour’s worth of LOUIE LOUIEs by DJ Stretch Riedle. When some of the folks at KALX heard about of the initial one hour LOUIE LOUIE broadcast, they did their own LOUIE program, which led to a series of competing LOUIE radio shows, with each trying to outdo the previous program with even more LOUIE LOUIE recordings.
When KFJC announced it would produce a “Maximum LOUIE LOUIE” program that would push the limits of LOUIE-dom, the staff of KALX actually worked with KFJC to achieve that goal, sharing all of their exclusive LOUIE recordings, with KALX DJ Mel C. (aka “The Amazing Mystery DJ”) joining KFJC DJ’s for some on-air commentary about the event.
It was truly a remarkable scene at KFJC. There was a lot of media attention with extensive articles in all the local newspapers, and every TV station in the Bay Area seemed to have a camera crew during the very first hour of this event. The event ultimately lasted 63 hours with over 800 unique versions of the song.
Richard Berry, the author of this song, was invited as a special guest for this event. He had no idea that there was such a big interest in the song. At the time of this event he was struggling to survive, assisted by welfare benefits. He’d never experienced such appreciation for his music, and it was truly a life-changing moment for him.
Jennifer: What was your role in the original Maximum Louie Louie?
Eric: My actual role in the marathon was minimal. I created a few flyers to promote the event, and recorded a parody version of the song (sort of a mashup of LOUIE with Flipper’s “Brainwash”), but had nothing to do with organizing the event, which was handled by a dedicated team of 30+ volunteers managed by Stretch Riedle, Frank “Phil Dirt” Luft and Doc Pelzel.
What I did do was simply borrow some video equipment from the local cable access channel, and document as much of this event as much as I could. As all of the TV stations left after the first few hours of this event, I wound up being the only person shooting any extensive video footage of the event, which included the surprise visit by Jack Ely, the original vocalist of the Kingsmen, who’d never met Richard Berry before. After flying in from Oregon, Jack met up with Richard, and they wound up performing a magnificent 45 minute version of the song that was broadcast live over the radio, with my video footage being the only existing footage of this historic event.
Jennifer: Is KFJC the focus of your Louie Louie documentary? When can people expect to be able to see that?
Eric: KFJC was the starting point for my documentary project on the song LOUIE LOUIE. After hearing about the personal life stories of Richard Berry and Jack Ely, as well as all of the unusual connected stories, I decided to use the KFJC footage as the seed for an even bigger project about the song itself. I wound up petitioning the FBI for the files connected to the investigation of the song using the Freedom of Information Act, which I’ve been told was the first time any non-government worker had ever asked for this material.
In the course of my project, I did a lot of research with everyone I could find that was connected to the story of LOUIE LOUIE – members of the Kingsmen, Paul Revere & the Raiders, the Wailers, the Sonics, Little Bill & the Bluenotes, the Frantics, and so many others. I spent quite a bit of time with Richard Berry, visiting him in Los Angeles, documenting most of his Bay Area appearances, and keeping in regular touch with him until his death in 1997. Richard is the primary reason why I started this project, as I considered it a great honor that he entrusted me with the power to tell the full side of his story.
It’s been a challenge to finish this film. There’s been a lot of obstacles involving clearances, financial issues, estate matters, and various logistics associated with the project. Despite my best efforts, I’ve not been able to obtain proper funding to complete this project. I recently embarked on a Kickstarter campaign to allow me to produce a presentation edit of the completed documentary that I’ll use to secure final clearances and find the proper production/distribution company for this program.
Jennifer: What do you have in store for Monday’s special on KFJC and who will be hosting/guiding that special?
Eric: Monday will be a big celebration of “International LOUIE LOUIE Day” – an event created by a consortium of international LOUIE enthusiasts. To celebrate this special day, I’ll be joined by the two guys responsible for producing the original “Maximum LOUIE LOUIE” marathon – Stretch Riedle and Frank “Phil Dirt” Luft, as well as “Nikki Teen” (aka Robyn Braverman) another alumni of the big marathon.
This special radio show will recreate some of the magic of the original marathon, using archival recordings nobody’s heard in over 20 years, including some radio spots by DJs that are no longer with us. The show will also present some exclusive snippets from the upcoming documentary, including interviews and performances that have never before been broadcast in any shape or form. Expect to hear some unique and absolutely entertaining versions of LOUIE LOUIE. There will be some very rare Richard Berry performances also being aired for the first time ever.
Jennifer: It seems that the special got more press attention than any other KFJC event. Why do you think the 1983 special resonated so much with listeners?
Eric: The Maximum LOUIE LOUIE marathon was successful for various reasons. First, the staff at KFJC radio was a dedicated, focused group of individuals that understood the significance of the song, and was able to organize a very successful, well-organized event that could be easily promoted via word of mouth.
Second, the simplicity of the song itself lent itself to musical empowerment. One need not be a great musician to make a great recording of LOUIE LOUIE. Enthusiasm and attitude were far more entertaining than musical competence. The local community truly embraced the idea of being able to produce music that could be shared easily on broadcast radio, many years before the invention of YouTube and other social media networks.
Jennifer: What typically happens on Louie Louie Day?
Eric: International LOUIE LOUIE Day is not only Richard Berry’s birthday, but it’s also the anniversary of the day the Kingsmen regained control of their master recordings. It’s truly a people’s movement, supported entirely by enthusiasts that appreciate the song, and all the absurdity attached to the song. There have been reports of a handful of LOUIE LOUIE DAY theme parties that taken place in various places around the globe, including some nightclubs in Germany, Spain, and England.
The most common occurrences of LOUIE LOUIE DAY tend to be random flash mobs in different parts of the world- LOUIE LOUIE performances that pop up in public places and then dissipate as quickly as they started.
More details about this special event can be found at LouieDay.org.
Jennifer: Anything else?
Eric: Thanks for your interest! I don’t think it’s very likely you’ll ever hear any radio shows that will sound anything at all like “The Return of the Invasion of MAXIMUM LOUIE LOUIE” show on April 11.
Expect some surprises!
me gotta go now….